Asia 50, 2017: A groundbreaking Indonesian helps kick things off

No.35 Feng Xiaoting

Despite all the headlines that have been written about the big-name stars moving to the Chinese Super League, it is often overlooked that the local players are improving too. None can have improved as much as this centre-back.

Always technically sound, Feng used to make two or three mistakes in every game and could be relied upon to go walkabout from time to time.

Since joining Guangzhou Evergrande, however, Feng has gone from strength to strength and was one of the standout players, local or foreign, in the entire league in 2016 as his team won a sixth straight title.

Positionally, he has come on in leaps and bounds and appears certain to keep his place at the centre of the Southern China Tigers' defence for years.

He has also earned praise from Fabio Cannavaro, a man who knows more than most about what it takes to be a top central defender. – John Duerden

No.34 Brad Jones

At 35 years of age, many had assumed that Brad Jones’ best years were behind him, yet not only has he shone in one of Europe’s bigger leagues, he’s smashed a series of records along the way in being one of the continent’s most impressive custodians.

A key cog in the club’s first league title in 18 years, secured with a 3-1 victory over Heracles Almelo on the last day of the season to pip Ajax by one point, when Jones recorded his 14th clean sheet for the season earlier this year he surpassed a club record that had stood for more than 20 years.

He would finish with a league-high 17 clean sheets from 32 appearances.

It’s not just domestically where he’s starred though as he was also a standout in Feyenoord’s Europa League campaign, named in the official Best XI of the group stage.

As former Dutch international keeper Pim Doesburg said earlier this year, “it’s as though he’s fallen from heaven”, and even though his advanced age has kept him out of an international recall, he’s still a key figure in our top 50. – Scott McIntyre

No.33 Lee Jae-sung

One of the most underrated players in Asian football, Lee was integral to the Jeonbuk Motors as the South Korean team won the Asian Champions League last November.

Lee did not make the headlines that Brazilian attacker Leonardo garnered, but he was just as vital to the club's success.

Capable of directing play from deep in midfield or further forward if necessary, he rarely puts a foot or a pass wrong, and the 24-year-old is increasingly able to control games.

While he is far from flashy, he has plenty of talent and no little flair when needed, so it’s surprising he isn’t one of the first names on the South Korean team sheet.

Coach Uli Stielike could do worse than build the Taeguk Warriors around one of the most intelligent players in Asia.

Lee has been attracting interest from Europe and it is only a matter of time before he heads west. – John Duerden

No.32 Zhang Linpeng

Previously linked with moves to Chelsea and Leicester City and armed with the nickname the ‘Chinese Sergio Ramos’, Zhang is one of seven defenders on our list, although he slipped from No.18 last year to No.32 in 2017.

"Ramos is a great player, so it is encouraging to be compared to him by the supporters," said Zhang, who is recognised for his aerial ability and strength in one-on-one situations.

"But my favourite player is ex-Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic. He impresses me with his mentality, inspirational play and his technique."

The 28-year-old has collected trophies for fun during his time with Guangzhou Evergrande, adding a league and Chinese Cup double to his ever-growing cabinet last season.

Similarly to Ramos, Zhang can play as a central defender or right wing-back and combines tackling and passing skills with speed, leading to him being named in the Chinese Super League team of the year for four consecutive years (2013-2016).

With Zhang in tow, Guangzhou are once again leading the way as they bid for a seventh consecutive CSL title. – Tio Utomo

No.31 Mathew Leckie

The Australian may not be a prolific attacker, but he is the type of player every coach wants in their team.

Leckie was part of Australia’s Asian Cup-winning squad in 2015, which was their first major title since moving from Oceania to the Asian Football Confederation.

Having already enjoyed spells in Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach and FSV Frankfurt, his performances caught the eyes of Ingolstadt, who he helped to promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.

A 1.82m forward, Leckie possesses plenty of strength and pace, as well as a never-say-die attitude that was partly nurtured while he played the uniquely Australian sport of Aussie Rules football as a child.

He has also popped up with some important goals for the Socceroos, scoring against both Iraq and the UAE in March to help his side to four potentially crucial World Cup qualifying points on the road to Russia. – Kritikorn Thanamahamongkhol

So that's part one. Check back on Tuesday for players 30-11 on our countdown, featuring more War Elephants, a Premier League stalwart and a Scottish League champion